History of the Hash, where it all began
The Hash House
The 'Hash House' was the mildly derogatory nickname given (for its unimaginative, monotonous food) to the Selangor Club Chambers, by the British Civil Servants and businessman who lived and dined there. Originally, the ground floor housed the main Selangor Club dining room, and between the two World Wars it became a social centre of the times, used regularly for lunch time meals by the members who worked in the immediate vicinity.
Situated close to and behind the present Selangor Club, its function changed after independence in 1965 and it became a key office for the local Water Board, the place where all Kuala Lumpur (K.L.) residents came to pay their water bills. Sadly, it gave way to the relentless march of time around 1974, being bulldozed to the ground under the north-bound lane of Jalan Kuching. The buildings housing the original stables and servants quarters are still in existence.
The idea of Harriers chasing paper was not new to Malaya in 1938, as there had been such 'Hare and Hounds' clubs before in Kuala Lumpur and Johore Bahru, and there were clubs in existence in Malacca and Ipoh (the Kinta Harriers) at the time. "Horse" Thomson (one of the KLH3 founding fathers) recalled being invited on a run, shortly after his arrival in Johore Bahru in 1932, which chased a paper trail and followed basic Hash rules every week but the club was so magically organized that it had no name. The club flourished in the early 1930's but is believed to have died out around 1935.
The other branch of our ancestry comes from Malacca, where A. S. ('G') Gispert was posted in 1937 and joined a club called the Springgit Harriers, who also operated weekly under Hash rules and are believed to have been formed in 1935. Some months later, 'Torch' Bennett visited him and came as a guest on a few runs.
Hash House Harriers
By 1938, Thomson, Lee, Bennett and Gispert had all moved to K.L. and founded their own club, following the rules they had learnt elsewhere. It was 'G' Gispert who was apparently the moving spirit behind the club, though he never acted as On-Sec or a Joint Master. There were probably only about a dozen members of the original HHH, including :
· A. S. ('G') Gispert
· Cecil Lee
· 'Horse' Thomson
· 'Torch' Bennett
· Morris Edgar
· Eric Galvin
· H.M. Doig
· John Barrett
· M.C. Hay
They were soon joined by a few others, including:
· Frank Woodward
· Philip Wickens
· Lew Davidson
· E.A. Ross
It is not clear that the club actually had a name at the very beginning, but Gispert is credited with proposing 'The Hash House Harriers' when the Registrar of Societies required the gathering to be legally registered.
An interview with one of the founder members. Cecil Lee, reveals that it might well have been a tongue-in-cheek reference to the doubtful food served at the drinking hole frequented by the colonial bachelors of the time. Reports claim that the Hash began in early 1930’s, but under precisely what banner and whose direction nobody is quire certain.
The late A.S.Gisbert (known only as "G") was the real power force – albeit accidentally in the initial stages behind the Hash’s development as we know it today. Following an excessively indulgent party at the Selangor Club one Friday night. "G" decided to haul his ample frame around the sports field, thus hoping to balance out the law of increasing supply and diminishing output. Gradually others followed suit, and Cecil recalls that by the end of 1938 the Hash House Harriers were launched.
Such was the determination of "G" to keep this going that he coerced friends into supporting him on a regular basis. Runs were scheduled as a weekly event and Cecil Lee, ‘Horse’ Thomson, ‘Torch’ Bennett, Eric Galvin and later Philip Wickens were the founding fathers. But, as so often happen, good intentions led to evil ends, and the small group began to slake their thirst with generous quantities of beer at the end of each run….. one beer led to another, an institution was born, and (not surprising) the Hash grew in numbers and stature.
The permanent venue of those early meetings was the Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur. Although no proper records were kept of the early runs, it would seem that the 100th Run took place on 15th August 1941. The runs themselves ventured out in to the country, with the now familiar pattern of ‘hounds’ chasing a ‘hare’ (alias, paper trail). The Ampang and Maxwell Road districts were popular run areas. Cecil remembers, where they were greeted with many startled indigenous face at this extraordinary, foreign behaviour!
'Torch' Bennett (an accountant by profession) technically missed being a founder member, because he was then on leave, but on his return he introduced the first necessary organization - a bank account, a balance sheet and some system. More importantly, he seems, with Philip Wickens who joined later in 1939, to have helped to keep things going immediately after the war.
The HHH duly celebrated its 100th run on 15 August 1941, but only 17 runs later was forced into temporary hibernation by the arrival of the Japanese. As the founding members were all British, the club disbanded upon the arrival in Malaysia of the Japanese. The War took its toll, and "G" – the round and jolly Father of the Hash, was killed in action in Singapore in 1942
Post World War II, it was nearly 12 months before the survivors reassembled. Cecil records that at the end of the War it was as much in tribute to the memory of "G" – Platoon commander of the Argylls – that the reformation of the Hash House Harriers came about. Eric,’Horse’, ‘Torch’, and Philip along with Cecil set up the regular Monday runs once more and in August 1946 the first post-War event took place in the form of a fairly gentle trot round the Selangor Race Course. The tin bath for ice, drinking mugs and two carrying bags which were the only supplies the Hash owned prior to the War, were reinstated on the strength of a claim for War loss!
Events ran satisfactorily, numbers continued to increase and the eccentricities were tolerated amiably enough by the locals. However, during the Malayan Emergency in 1948, when the Communists were infiltrating the jungle, the Hash found themselves in bad official favour and their activities were considered illegal due to curfew regulations, so from 1948-1951 the Hash maintained, at best, a precarious existence. The turn round came with the famous bandit incident at Cheras.
This has been widely misreported, but what actually happened was that below where the Lady Templer Hospital is now, in an area that was then rubber and secondary jungle, the Hares on a darkening and rainy evening came across some men wrapped in ground sheets sleeping on the ground. They turned back to alert the pack and speed on to the Cheras police station, alerting the army, who laid ambushes on tracks leading out of the area and first thing the following morning bagged three bandits trying to break out. One of them was found to have a substantial price on his head and the bounty was sufficient to buy both the hares a new car, though the hounds were apparently of the opinion that it should have been shared amongst them all !
Other colourful incidents related by Cecil Lee, include how 'Torch' Bennett once nearly drowned in quicksand, and how on one memorable occasion the erstwhile unathletic 'G' was actually leading the pack: sadly his moment of glory was short lived as the paper trail turned to be false. Swimming would seem to have been an unofficial prerequisite for all Hashmen too, for Cecil remembers having had to swim across a mining pool in order to get home after being lost on one occasion, and on another it is reported that several Hashmen ran in to a stream where bathed some unsuspecting Malay maidens. The girls screamed; their menfolk came hurtling to the rescue with unsheathed parangs flashing, and the errant Hashmen broke land speed records in their eagerness to clear the scene.
Of the original founding fathers of the HHH, Cecil Lee and 'Horse' Thompson are still alive, though sadly no longer hashing. The founding members were all British, although Gispert's origins were Spanish, his parents having migrated to London some time before he was born. Extraordinarily both he and Bennett were accountants, as were Paul Barnard and Jack Bridewell who made a significant contribution to our activities of later years. Some Hash psychiatrist should investigate whether this type of work leads to extreme forms of escapism.
The Hash Spreads Out
It is thought that departing members from the Mother Hash probably started other Chapters, and indeed the second known Hash was founded in Bordighera in 1947, followed by others in Singapore (1962) and also in Brunei, and in Kota Kinabalu and Miri the following year. Even by the Mother Hash’s 1500th Run in 1974, however, the total number of Chapters constituted only 35, so the sub-sequent explosion of nearly 300 clubs in nearly 60 different countries is, indeed, spectacular. And so it goes on and on. The mysterious madness is spreading,
For more details of the growth of the Hash movement and from where the clubs were spawned see the Hash Heritage page
The first attempts at an Interhash get-together were the K.L. 1,000th post-war run in 1966, and the spectacular 1,500th run in 1974, when attendance was something over 300. The first genuine INTERHASH, in 1978 in Hong Kong broke new ground, with an attendance of around 800.
Subsequent INTERHASHES were in Kuala Lumpur in 1980 (1,200 hashers), Jakarta
in 1982 (1,300 hashers), Sydney in 1984 (1,654 hashers), Pattaya in 1986 (2,143
hashers), Bali in 1988 (2,450 hashers), Manila in 1990 (1,400 hashers), Phuket
in 1992 (2,500 hashers), Rotorua in 1994 (3,650 hashers). Cyprus in 1996 (4500
hashers) and Kuala Lumpur (The Homecoming Diamond Celebration) in 1998 (5800
Written in 1992 and updated in 1996 by Mike Lyons (On-Sec, 'Mother' Hash), from copious research material provided by John Duncan
(The above article was from the Interhash '98 magazine)